Longstanding Commitment to the Environment Bears Great Fruit for Centenary UMC

by Jonathan Brake

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Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem began an Environmental Council over 15 years ago. This group was instrumental in moving the church to use recycled papers, ceramic mugs at coffee stations, developing an annual awareness dinner, getting church members involved in community cleanup efforts and more.

A few years ago, as the original participants were aging out, the group was revived with younger supporters and renamed Centenary Creation Care Ministry. Small group studies, Creation Care Sunday worship services, and documentary showings, have been added to the education efforts – with help from Blessed Earth.  Creek cleanup, tree plantings, and re-purposing poinsettias after Christmas have been added as community actions.

In 2014, the church invited North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light to do a full energy savings analysis of the church property. Adjustments were made resulting in a 10% savings on the electric bill last year. These savings will be used this year to upgrade a large portion of lighting to LED bulbs and motion sensors will be added to classrooms, restrooms, and closets as part of earning the Green Faith Energy Shield designation.

This year, Centenary UMC is entering into a contract with Gallins Farm to compost all food waste produced by the church. A part of this compost will find its way into the Betty & Jim Holmes Food Bank Garden, a community garden begun 16 years ago by church members on the farm at The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem. This project will include using compostable plates, cups, utensils, etc. in place of paper plates or Styrofoam cups. Expanding the recycling program of the church will soon follow in the months to come as a result of removing food waste from the garbage stream.

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Plans are underway for a major renovation project at Centenary UMC of a 3-story education building. The Creation Care Team has been in consultation with the architects who will meet LEED standards in this project which is appropriate, since this building contains the children’s ministry classrooms. Energy efficiencies will become part of the legacy that the church leaves to the next generations. Discussions are just beginning about the possibility of adding rooftop solar to some of the church buildings in the future.

One of the greatest accomplishments in recent years, has been a focus on teaching the church about Creation Care as a spiritual practice. Our United Methodist Social Principles state:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.

By focusing teaching and advocacy on Christian stewardship responsibilities, the church can avoid much of the politicization of environmental concerns, seeing faith actions as part of being members of the kingdom of God. Church members are encouraged to take the message home and results are being reported. In the spring of 2015, the Creation Care Team gave each family a reusable grocery bag with items inside including a LED light bulb to replace an incandescent one in their home (at a fraction of the energy use).

Consistent efforts to keep Creation Care in front of the congregation include articles in each bi-monthly issue of the church magazine, Through Centenary Windows, publicizing monthly Creation Care Team planning meetings, and looking for ways to involve existing groups of the church in activities, such as children, youth, classes, small groups, etc.

The Rev. Jonathan L Brake is an Associate Minister at Centenary. His areas of responsibility include Creation Care.